It is shaping up to be a beautiful spring here in Washington. Even as God guides me into new and challenging work, we are experiencing the Lord’s presence and blessing in our midst at Capitol Hill Friends
. Lately, we have had quite a few new attenders, and our community feels like it is growing in strength. I am constantly giving thanks to God for my brothers and sisters at Capitol Hill Friends, and for the ways that I see us growing together in maturity – both individually and as a Meeting.
The beauty of the spring is all the more radiant for me because of how challenging the winter has been. From November through February, I felt almost overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. The process of looking for a home in the DC area left me gasping for breath. The Occupy movement began its transition to a post-encampment stage, and for a couple of months it felt like everything was falling apart. As new homeowners, many new expenses emerged and stress over finances grew.
I got very anxious about how we were going to be able to pay the bills, living in one of the most expensive cities in the country. With a mortgage to pay and a combined household income less than a starting schoolteacher’s salary, I felt the pinch that is familiar to so many of us right now.
I began to succumb to the temptation to put financial security above obedience to God’s leading. In all my anxiousness around money, it was hard for me to hear what God was truly calling me to do. I wanted to feel in control, to have a sense of security in my finances. I felt tempted to abandon the work God was calling me to in order to get a job that paid a livable wage.
Ultimately, I needed to get out of DC in order to get my head on straight. In mid-February, way opened for me to make a visit to Friends in Philadelphia. I had opportunities with a number of folks who were clearly putting God first, allowing the Spirit’s leading to shape every aspect of their lives. In some cases, this had profound financial implications. I was inspired by the example of Jon Watts and Maggie Harrison, who are focusing on the ministry that God has given them to do. They are demonstrating their faith in the Lord in very concrete ways.
Instead of working for money and giving God whatever time and energy they have left over, they are setting their sights first and foremost on the mission that God has for their lives. They are seeking first the Kingdom of God, and its righteousness
– trusting that God will provide for all of their temporal needs as they are faithful in the work. Rather than getting unrelated jobs, Jon and Maggie are exploring ways to make this work financially sustainable.
This was a huge breakthrough for me. I came to my senses, and realized that Jesus wants me to be focused on the work that he is calling me to, and to trust him to provide for my needs. My tendency is to tell him, “Yes, I will follow you. Only first let me go and make sure my bills get paid.” But Jesus tells me, “No; let the dead bury the dead
. I will provide you with everything you need. But first, follow me.”
In the last several weeks, I have begun to understand that what God is requiring of me at this moment is to focus my attention on the Occupy movement. In particular, I am feeling God’s call to throw myself into full-time organizing for the Occupy Church, an ecumenical Christian witness for economic justice in our local communities. One concrete way that I and other Christians are bearing witness is through our partnership with Occupy Our Homes DC.
As part of Occupy Our Homes DC, we are resisting the unjust and illegal lending practices of the big banks. We have already claimed our first victory
in the case of Bertina Jones, who was going to be thrown out of her house despite her willingness and ability to pay the mortgage
. As a result of our direct action
at the offices of Freddie Mac, who presently own her mortgage, we were able to secure a committment from Freddie Mac and Bank of America (the original lender) that Bertina would be able to stay in her home and resume her mortgage payments.
As we continue to nail down the specifics of a final deal in the case of Bertina, we at Occupy Our Homes DC are ramping up our engagement in Prince George’s County
, where thousands of families live under the threat of eviction. We are canvassing neighborhoods, showing up at foreclosure auctions and meeting with local community leaders in order to build a broad base of support for a just resolution to the foreclosure crisis.
Occupy Church has a particular role to play in all of this. I, and other Occupy Church organizers, are working to develop relationships with clergy and members of area churches with the ultimate goal of building a coalition based in the local community that can stand up to the abusive lenders that are forcing families out of their homes. In the months ahead, I will be focusing much of my energy on this effort, as we seek to stand with the families that are being ruined by the callous greed of the big banks.
I am still surprised to be involved in all of this. Six months ago, I had little interest in activism. I was mostly focused on nurturing my local Christian community and sharing the gospel as best I knew how. But now I am convinced that this form of engagement is what Christ’s gospel requires of me. I have been astonished as God has clearly called me into this work, despite all my protestations and anxiety. With every day that passes I am all the more aware of my weakness and inability to accomplish anything on my own. Yet, I am convinced that God is directing me in this work, and I have to trust that the Lord can use even me.
God has a long track record of using the young, the inexperienced, and the weak to bring God’s plans to fruition. I have decided to step out in faith, despite my trepidation, and to trust God to provide for my needs. With divine assistance, I pray for the courage to seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness. I want to follow Jesus, even as he takes me far outside my comfort zone.
I am grateful for the way that the Spirit is helping me to grow in trust. Through much wrestling and prayer, the arc of the last month has bent towards courage. God has been at work in my heart, releasing me from fear and inviting me into the risky work of the Holy Spirit in the world.
Thank you for your ongoing prayers and encouragement. May the blessing of God’s living presence be with you and your communities.
In the light of Christ,